We spoke to four knife designers about why they devised their blades...
Today we had the opportunity to interview a very special guest: Doug Marcaida. Doug is a man of many talents—he's the founder and expert martial arts instructor at Marcaida Kali, an experienced knife designer (known for the DART karambit), and also one of the judges on the History channel hit TV series Forged in Fire.
Even though he has been on the road in Europe, Doug graciously answered our questions and gave us some insight into his martial arts and knife-designing philosophies. In fact, he gave us so much good info, we decided to split it into two parts for both RECOILweb and OFFGRIDweb readers. Check out the Q&A below, then hit the link at the bottom of this page for even more of Doug's answers at RECOILweb.
OFFGRIDweb: First of all, thanks very much for taking the time to chat with us today. For our readers who aren't familiar, please tell us a little about Marcaida Kali, and the martial arts training philosophy you pass along to your students.
Doug Marcaida: Marcaida Kali is my personal interpretation of the different Filipino Martial Arts systems I trained in. It is a weapons-based art that develops the use of tools as weapons, because in the end, the methodology and training process is to be able to realize and use what is to me the only weapon: your mind.
The philosophy of this art is that “it's not about how many you hurt, but how many you can protect”. Honor and integrity through the practice of the arts. Many times, we get caught up with how bad ass one's martial arts is. Well, these are weapons. We know that there is a body count. Let's not glorify the obvious, but find the responsibility one gets from training, and also seek to develop the good attributes aside from the physical skills and bring back what good qualities martial training develops in a person.
OG: We're excited to check out the new season of Forged in Fire on the History channel. Can you tell us a little about your involvement in the show, and how that started?
DM: I am one of the judges in the show, and I represent the end user of the weapons. In the end, these works of art have to prove to be fully-functional weapons that will have to stand up to a strength and durability, sharpness and kill test. I simply get to test the weapons with the specially-designed tests. Because this is a competition, I have to let the weapons do the work so we can differentiate and pick the best weapon presented.
OG: What was one of the biggest challenges about being part of a major TV show?
DM: The biggest challenge for me is not being able to go up against a target that fights back to give me a true test of the weapons capabilities, because my expertise is about the use of the weapons in combat. Also, that these are fully functional and sharpened weapons that I do not touch till the actual testing. I don't have time to dial in my strikes or get familiar with the weapon. There is no “do over” aside from testing with a sharp weapon, safety is also important.
This is a competition about weapons forging, and not about me or what I do. But I am blessed to be part of an exciting show that on a personal level has taught me so many things about the weapons I wield. It's almost as if I've come full circle, because now I also understand the creation process and don't limit myself to the design and use of edged weapons.
OG: We're sure there were also many upsides to being on Forged in Fire. How has being on TV positively impacted you and your business?
DM: The biggest upside for me is that I have learned so much about the weapons I train with. From discovering iconic weapons from history to understanding the process of blade making. It has allowed to give a true personal understanding, and in a romantic sense, to be able to see the process where the soul of the blade smith is transferred to the weapon.
In terms of business, I can't deny the exposure has allowed people to see my craft and what I do when they search deeper into who the judges are. Kali or Filipino Martial Arts are not as exposed as other arts. It's used in many movies like the Bourne series, to Blade and even 300. But in due time with the advent of media and shows like this, it really helps give exposure to my craft.
OG: How did you begin your career as a knife designer?
DM: One of our methodologies of training is to have trainers that match the real knives or weapons you would carry on a regular basis. And in the weapons world, like underwear… you can't only have one. (laughs)
In my training group, we would often discuss the attributes of our tactics and then imagine what kind of knife or weapon would best allow us to execute the desired result or action. This then allowed me to design the blades we use in our group. That's how I got started.
OG: If you could go back in time with the knowledge you have now, would you have approached your knife-designing career differently?
DM: Design wise, no. I'm quite blessed that my journey has been a positive one, even with some ups and downs. But what I would have liked to add is the forging process.
OG: How important are knives in Marcaida Kali? What if your student is without a knife?
DM: Knives are tools. It's the attribute of a tool that has an edge. If you train in our system and understand the process, then you would realize that you are never without a weapon, because you are the weapon. And your environment always provides you with tools.
The use of tools is important because they are force multipliers in combat. And the true nature of combat is weapons or tools use. Not hand-to-hand combat, as history has shown. There never was a battle or war fought with hand-to-hand combat. Somebody always ruins the party and shows up with a knife. (laughs) But we also know that a knife can be an equalizer—a 7-year-old or 90-year-old can punch and hit, and their age makes a difference in damage. But a knife wielded by someone the same age? Get my point?
What we also teach is that everything has to be wielded by the body. So, we choose something inanimate that doesn't affect the body. It's a risk to make skin-to-skin contact. Our hands are for loving, and an inanimate object never complains when it hits or gets hit. Our training uses the same moves with or without a tool. We call these physical weapons. But once again we go for the choice that gives us maximum effect for the least effort or risk. In survival, it's about making the best choices that give you the highest percentage of success.
OG: Do you carry a knife every day? If so, please tell us about the knife you have with you today, and the features that made you choose it as part of your EDC.
DM: My EDC varies, depending on what I feel like carrying or what matches my shoes. Today it might be the DART knife, but for more rugged use I have designed the DART XT, which is coming out in March. It's based on the Direct Action Response theory for use. It has to have the ability to open as it deploys. It has to have the ability for retention, which is a ring. It can be used for impact if not deployed, and straight bladed for EDC use.
On another design venture, I have a collaboration with another designer Bastien Bastinelli with new knives that tell stories. The Le Piquer or scalpel shiv, the fast-opening folder we call the Mako, and a blade called the Contrador. Watch for it.
Just as times change, so do the designs of knives and tactics. I always like to engage my thoughts, and designing knives and their uses is my creative process that keeps my passion for what I do active and ever-evolving. And yes, there is another project that will reflect this. Just like my videos show the constant movement and flow, so goes the constant movement and ideas in my head. I know, it's too much coffee and energy drinks.
OG: What other essential tools does your EDC usually incorporate?
DM: The ability to cut, deploy quickly, ease of carry and concealment if need be, retention, and to have an option to use as an impact weapon.
OG: In previous OFFGRID Web posts, we have mentioned the potential dangers of attempting to fend off a knife attack while unarmed. What would you advise a reader to do if an attacker draws a knife, and the reader is unarmed?
DM: If you have time to think and react, then you have time to run. But if you have time to pick anything up, or use your environment, do so. Never stay in one place. Always move. For knives to hit their mark you need close distance. A moving target is hard to hit. A target that moves and hits back is the kind of target you want to be. So, learn how to attack. Learn to make offense your defense. If you are faced with no other choice, then you fight a knife. You don't defend against it. That requires training. Be vigilant about your own safety. Study something.
OG: On the other hand, what would you say about a reader drawing a knife to defend themselves against an unarmed attacker, or a group of attackers?
DM: In the eyes of the law, you can only do what is required to keep you safe or defuse the situation of danger. The one-upmanship may only apply to military or law enforcement, not civilians. Like I said, if you have the time to draw a knife from a concealed carry, did you have the time to run? Is your choice of drawing a knife against an unarmed attacker going to be justified in a court of law? The one thing based on your question says “unarmed ATTACKER”. There are laws that protect you and allow you protect yourself with lethal force if your life is in danger. Survive, but be smart. Make the right choices. 9 times out of 10, you probably could have gone less-than-lethal and de-escalated the situation.
But wait, there's more! Click here to read additional questions and answers from our interview with Doug Marcaida on RECOILweb.
To learn more about Doug Marcaida and Marcaida Kali martial arts techniques, visit DougMarcaida.com.
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